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Can Back Pain Cause Chest Pain? | Guide for Chest Tightness Symptoms

Do you sometimes experience aching or sharp chest pain that travels to your upper back? This can be an alarming symptom, causing many of us to worry about something more serious such as cardiac problems. In fact, the cause for this kind of chest and back pain might not be what you expect—it could actually come from back issues. As a physician and certified physical therapist, I’m here to clear up any confusion on this topic so that you don’t suffer in silence needlessly. In this blog post, I’ll explain how poor posture, muscle strain or other back-related issues may be causing painful symptoms throughout your torso and neck area.

As a general rule, back pain can indeed cause chest pain due to the proximity of the spinal nerves that innervate both areas. The pain may be a result of a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or poor posture. Additionally, underlying conditions like osteoporosis or heart problems may also lead to both types of pain.

Learn the optimal ways to tackle back pain with my expert guidance. With over 30 years of experience in chiropractic and ergonomics, I possess a deep knowledge of posture. My achievements include authoring a book, appearing on national television, and developing several solutions for enhancing posture and comfort while sitting. I also recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund ergonomic seat cushions. Trust in my expertise as I share tips that can help alleviate or even banish your back pain.

The Connection Between Back Pain and Chest Pain

Back pain and chest pain may seem unrelated, but they can be connected due to various factors. The musculoskeletal system’s complexity, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments, can sometimes result in pain radiating from one area to another. When back pain affects the muscles and nerves around the chest area, it can lead to chest pain. However, it’s essential to remember that chest pain can also indicate severe medical conditions, so it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

If you’re struggling with back pain, I wrote an article on how to manage your pain and why you should do these important steps and I encourage you to read it!

As a seasoned chiropractor, I’ve seen my fair share of patients hobbling into my clinic, hunched over in pain, and asking, “Can back pain cause chest pain?” Well, my dear readers, I’m here to tell you that it’s not only possible, but it’s also a surprisingly common phenomenon. So, let’s dive into the world of intertwined pains and explore how your chest and back may be playing a painful game of tag.

Back Pain and Chest Pain: An Unlikely Duo

back pain female

Chest pain is often associated with heart issues, but it’s not always the heart that’s to blame. Sometimes, your back muscles might just want to join the party. So how exactly does back pain contribute to chest pain?

The Upper Back Tightness Tango

The muscles in your upper back can become tight and strained due to a variety of reasons, such as poor posture, injury, or just good old-fashioned stress. When these muscles are taut, they can pull on your ribcage, causing discomfort and even pain in your chest area.

Injury and Heart Attack: A Case of Mistaken Identity

I’ve written a complete hands-on review about the best sitting position for sciatica, and here is what I tested best with my sciatica patients.

When experiencing chest pain, it’s not uncommon for people to think they’re having a heart attack. While it’s always best to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention, it’s important to know that chest pain can also be caused by an injury to the back. That’s right, a simple muscle strain or spinal misalignment can make you feel like your heart is under siege.

Back Pain and Chest Pain: Symptoms in Sync

When back pain is the culprit for your chest pain, you might experience other symptoms as well. These can include pain radiating down your arms, difficulty breathing, or even a feeling of tightness around your chest. Remember, though, that these symptoms can also be indicators of a heart issue. Always consult a medical professional if you’re unsure.

posture before and after seat wedge

Axial Designs® Best Seat Cushion for Back Support


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Best Seat Cushion for Back SupportAxial Ergonomic Seat Cushion® | Seat Chair Wedge

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Product Name Axial Designs™ Seat Cushion
Price $149
Warranty 1 Year
Type Posture Wedge
Top Layer 100% Natural Latex (Molded)
Bottom Layer High-Density Foam
Top Material Isometric Grippy Vegan Leather
Bottom Material Non-Slip Material
Side Material 3D Breathable Fabric

Add a Dash of Posture to the Mix

Another common cause of back and chest pain is poor posture. When you slouch or hunch over, you put unnecessary stress on your spine, muscles, and joints. Over time, this can lead to pain in both your back and chest. So, straighten up, buttercup! Your body will thank you for it.

In conclusion, back pain can indeed cause chest pain, and it’s not as rare as you might think. Whether it’s due to muscle tightness, injury, or poor posture, your back and chest can team up to make your life a bit more uncomfortable. But fret not, dear reader, as there are plenty of ways to address these issues. Visit your friendly neighborhood chiropractor (like me!) for advice on how to keep your back and chest pain-free.

Common Causes of Back-Related Chest Pain

Some common causes of back-related chest pain include muscle strains, nerve compression, and spinal issues. Muscle strains can occur due to overexertion, poor posture, or injury, leading to inflammation and pain in both the back and chest areas. Nerve compression, such as in thoracic outlet syndrome or a herniated disc, can cause radiating pain from the back to the chest. Spinal issues, like degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis, can also contribute to pain in both areas.

Differentiating Between Back and Heart-Related Chest Pain

It’s important to differentiate between back-related and heart-related chest pain, as the latter can be a sign of a life-threatening condition. Heart-related chest pain usually manifests as a feeling of tightness, pressure, or burning in the chest, often accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea, or sweating. The pain may worsen with physical activity and may radiate to the arms, jaw, or back. In contrast, back-related chest pain is often linked to specific movements or positions and may improve with rest or stretching.

chest pain

Treatment and Management of Back-Related Chest Pain

Treatment options for back-related chest pain depend on the underlying cause. In cases of muscle strains, rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications can help alleviate pain and inflammation. Physical therapy, massage, or chiropractic care may also be beneficial for musculoskeletal issues. For nerve compression or spinal problems, a healthcare professional may recommend targeted therapies, medications, or even surgery in severe cases. Additionally, maintaining proper posture, engaging in regular exercise, and practicing stress management can help prevent back-related chest pain.








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Final Thoughts

Back pain and chest pain are closely related since the nerve that carries chest pain messages can be irritated and send pain signals due to an issue with the back. It’s important to know that there can be serious medical issues if chest pain is severe or doesn’t go away quickly. See your doctor as soon as possible if chest pain becomes very intense or lasts for longer than 5 minutes.

Additionally, consider whether any specific activity, such as sleeping or moving around, leads to chest discomfort and mention it to your doctor. By addressing the root cause of back problems, both back and chest discomfort should relieve over time. Whenever unsure about something, reach out to a medical professional who is more qualified and experienced with your problem than anyone else. Don’t hesitate – take care of yourself!


**As a service to our readers, Axial Chairs provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of the last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

Medical Disclaimer: This website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Product Disclaimer: The seat cushion is designed by a chiropractor, but results may vary and are not guaranteed. The product is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any medical condition.


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Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Dr Lawrence Woods DC


My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort.

With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience in Ireland as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sitting for living a happy and healthy life.

I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.


Dr Lawrence Woods

My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort. With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sleep for living a happy and healthy life. I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

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